Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sugar Night Dive: Rare and Unusual Creatures

Tiger Cowrie
  Strange creatures abound at Sugar Beach after dark. This is one of our favorite night dive spots for some muck diving action on Maui. Not many people know about this place because it really does take some faith, especially at night, to get in the water here and hope for the best. It doesn't look like much at first but after finding the first few unusual creatures they seem to appear everywhere you look. From active cowries to unknown nudibranchs we delighted with each new find.

Gloomy Nudibranch
  Even the fish can look totally different at night, taking on new colorations and behaviors. But the big surprise of the night was a beautiful red-orange frogfish that Heidi found out in the open.

Moorish Idol at Night
Pokemon Nudibranch

Shy Scorpoinfish
Heidi's beautiful frogfish

Reticulated Frogfish, very rare

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hidden Gems at Mala Pier

   Oh it's good to be back scuba diving on Maui! Shortly after landing we grabbed scuba tanks from our favorite dive shop Maui Dreams. One of our first dives was a beautiful mid day at the old Mala Pier. It is an easy shore dive through the reef covered submerged wreckage of the old concrete pier. The reef habitat has brought in an amazing amount of sea life. There are resident white tip reef sharks and often sea turtles hiding among the overhanging wreckage.

  It was a beautiful day and lots of divers and snorkelers were out and about. We even ran into our friend Drew underwater, who pointed out a rare gloomy nudibranch.

  Turtles were the star of the show here at Mala today. We had many close encounters with many young turtles. At one point a turtle almost swam into my camera! Big schools of fish hung near the outskirts of the reef and Heidi found a beautiful frog fish camouflaging in with the finger coral. This has got to be one of the best dives for underwater photography here on Maui.

Frog Fish!

White Tip Reef Shark

Friday, March 20, 2015

Glassy Waves on the North Shore

  A rare day off matched up with glassy conditions on the north shore so I grabbed my boards and blasted off across the island. I wanted to check out a secret spot that only a few buddies of mine usually use. I saw a few people out catching some fun waves so I strapped on my leash and paddled out.

  I was surprised to see that the
 eight surfers out were all unkown to me. Guess the spot is catching on. Luckily there were plenty of waves to go around. It also seemed like the other surfers had been out for a while because pretty soon the crowd was down to three.
   I wanted to play around with my new GoPro4 as well and the glassy conditions came out beautiful in the pictures. Add to the fact that it was extremely low tide and in some of the pics like the one on the left you can actually see the colorful coral reef lurking just below the window-like wave. I wonder how many more of these day's I have left here on Oahu's north shore...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Annual hike to Kaena Point

Views along the trail
Phoebe whale watching
  There is a hike leading from the end of the road that is the only way to get out to Oahu's western tip called Ka'ena Point. Every winter we try to head out to see the albatross chicks as well as humpback whales and monk seals. This year's hike started off with a bang. Just as we left the car and got underway Heidi pointed just offshore to a disturbance in the water. Just then a huge mother humpback whale launched itself into a full breach, right were Heidi had pointed to!

Albatross Nesting Area
  Our good friend Phoebe joined us for this years annual trek. After the huge whale breach the mom and calf took off north, hugging the coastline. So we took off in pursuit focusing on our footing while trying not to miss the next big breach. I had my camera and long lens ready but it seemed that the mom and calf had switched to travel mode. It was all we could do to keep up with them as we speedily tackled the uneven trail.
Laysan Albatross
  We followed the whales all the way to the wind line at the point, but here we switched our focus to the elegant Laysan albatross flying just over our heads. They are a rare bird to see here in the main Hawaiian islands, as 99.7% nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They are so graceful to watch in flight with their 6 1/2ft wingspan, but almost comical to watch coming in for a landing. We could see several adults standing in front of nests but it wasn't until our way back out that we finally noticed some little albatross chicks peering out from underneath.

Baby albatross peering out
Bigger wingspan than me

Elbow Drop
Seals horse playing
  Another animal we almost always see out here is the very rare Hawaiian monk seal. We were pretty shocked to see not one, but four monk seals all together in the same tide pool. This turned out to be the most active I've ever seen them. Three out of the four were play fighting while the fourth was content with just sleeping away the morning. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the seals were playing or actually fighting but in the end they cuddled up next to each other to take a rest. It was quite special to see this interaction and behavior from such a rare wild animal. Ka'ena point comes through again.

All tuckered out

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hiking to the Pali Notches

Climbing out of the notch

Artist rendition of the Pali battle
Life on the ridge line
 High up in the Koolau mountain range here on Oahu sit two massive notches, carved out of the rocky ridge. The story is that the warrior chief Kalanikapuli had these notches cut out in 1795 in order to place western canons. This was all in hopes of stopping the advancing armies of another warrior chief name Kamehameha. The canons proved to be a huge force for the defenders of Oahu but victory in the end belonged to Kamehameha. With this victory high atop the Pali cliffs Kamehameha was able to unite all the islands and create the Kingdom of Hawaii. An artist's rendition of the famous battle of the pali cliffs still greets visitors at the lookout today.
Bigger, steeper second notch
Nu'uanu Valley
  I have been to the lookout many times and have even hiked up to the ridge line on the north side of the lookout where the famous Pali Puka is, but I had never tackled the hike/scramble up to the Pali Notches before today. I was almost turned around by a little drizzle when I first arrived so I spent a little time on the old Pali road, another hike that is in the area. Then as the rain clouds dispersed I saw my chance. I quickly snuck past the no hiking sign and climbed out of view into the forest above.

  After some very slippery scrambling up the steep trail I emerged onto an open area high above the parking lot. I looked all around but could not find the notches. It turns out that they were still a long ways up. So back into the forest I went following the trail higher still. Some parts of the trail puts you pretty close to the edge of these thousand foot cliffs, but luckily the rain had stopped and the wind was almost nonexistent. The views to the south towards Honolulu were amazing. Nuuanu Valley opened up underneath me drawing my view further in till it reached the ocean.

Continuing past the notches
On Top of the World
   When I finally did make it to the notches I was surprised to see other people. A group of Norwegian visitors were soaking in the sun on some of the rocky peaks above the notches. I guess I had figured that no one else would have scrambled up the slippery trail so shortly after a rainfall but I was wrong. It was a beautiful sight that reminded me of a hike I did back in Fiji with similar rock formations at the top. I made sure to climb down into the first notch just to say I stood in the same place the canons were so many years ago. The view opened up all the way to the Moke islands of Lanikai beach although I could see intermittent rainshowers in that direction. If I would have had more time I would have explored further but work beckoned. Going down was tough at first but after getting the hang of it I flew back down to the car.

Kailua from above